This article addresses the unique issues and possible slip-falls if you are using your affiliate program to promote your marketing campaigns and coupons as part of your overall online marketing strategy.
Introduction If you are a merchant that uses coupons and special promotions such as clearance sales, site wide free shipping or other marketing tools that have a limited life span and have an affiliate program, which you use as sales channel to promote those campaigns, then this article is intended for you.
Avoid mistakes that can cause problems during or after the campaign which are in most of the cases customer service issues that probably harm your image in the minds of your existing or potential customers and will potentially hurt your brand in the end.
Announce it, but announce it right
Before you launch your marketing campaign through your affiliate-marketing channel, consider the following tips and check if you have everything ready and in place that your affiliates can to their job right. This article is focused on the proper announcement of the launch and discontinuation of your marketing campaigns.
Always provide an expiration date and time. Provide your affiliates with the expiration date and time for any coupon or marketing campaign you want them to promote. If it is an ongoing promotion, let your affiliates know that.
If you do not know the expiration date of a promotion yet, provide the information, how long you expect it to run and the goal you want to accomplish with it, which will have important impact on the expiration. This might be the case, because you will probably discontinue the promotion earlier, if you do not meet your goals at all and extend it much further than originally planned, if it is exceeding your expectations.
Use your affiliates campaigns to boost yours
You can also announce a campaign before it launches, but make sure that you provide the date and time of the launch and make clear what they can and cannot do with that information. Specify if you allow or even recommend affiliates to announce an upcoming campaign to their customers.
You do not want then to announce all the details of the campaign, of course not, because that would damper the effectiveness of the campaign in general, but enough to get their customers attention and make them curious about what might be coming.
Provide Teaser material in those cases. Even without having a teaser, announce it to your affiliates, because it can help to increase the effectiveness of a campaign. It gives them more time to plan and make preparations on their part.
Affiliates might be preparing a campaign for their Site at the same time as you are and your campaign would be perfect to launch parallel, to increase each others “bang”. Affiliates are maybe able to incorporate into their campaign, mention or refer to it. This is often the case with campaigns for specific holidays (Christmas, Valentines Day, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day etc.) or national events (Super Ball, Stanley Cup, Olympic Games, Mardi Gras and Spring Break etc.).
Discontinuation of long running promotions
There are only a few cases where you would not know at least a few days before the fact when you discontinue an ongoing promotion for whatever reason.
Send a notification before it expires to give your affiliates some lead time to prepare and ready exactly when you want them to be. Do not do it on the day or worse after it expired, demanding the immediate removal from the affiliate site and a complete stop of any other way of promoting it.
The earlier you can send the notification the better. Do not give the impression to your affiliates, that your company decided unexpectedly to discontinue the campaign today and had your own Webmaster jump through hoops to get it of your own website that very same day, if it did not happened that way.
This is still too often done like that by many merchants and very unprofessional. I explain the case where it is appropriate a few chapters later.
Most merchants run monthly campaigns. Many coupons are valid for one month only and often targeted to aid and improve the effectiveness of that month’s campaign.
Sites that are specialized in promoting merchant campaigns, like coupon and other sites that target and attract bargain-hunting customers have their busiest days right at the end of the month and the first days of the following month replacing expiring campaigns with the new ones. If possible, announce upcoming or to be discontinued campaigns that used to be ongoing outside this timeframe.
This will increase the chances that your campaign will get more attention. It will also decrease the chances, that affiliates will miss the announcement of a discontinuation unintentionally. Affiliates are humans and humans make mistakes especially when they are under stress.
Unplanned discontinuation of any promotion
Keep in mind that the chances are good that affiliates promote long running promotions in multiple different ways. To stop all of them might take more than a few minutes.
Affiliates are busy too and the ones that do it right and successful are doing also resource planning as any other healthy business and are not able to halt their business operation for you, because you want them to do something immediately you knew already earlier.
Only if there is very good reason (Legal Issue, Natural Disaster, End of the World and that sort of things) is it acceptable and understandable for your affiliate if you demand an immediate stop of a promotional campaign. If you have to demand an immediate stop, explain why.
Immediately after 9/11 were promotion and even the release of new action movies that involved terrorists stopped or delayed. TV Stations changed their programming and replaced inconsiderate programming with more appropriate programming.
This could not be planned, but the right thing to do and nobody was complaining about the extra time it took to do it or the fact that I had to be done fast. It is not acceptable and bad business practice in any other case.
Announcements via email
Regardless what, when and why you announce something important and/or time critical to your affiliates via email, make sure that you state in the subject of the email your intention and content of the email and not just “Affiliate Newsletter” which is fine if you are providing general information and news to your affiliates.
It is the worst subject you can use for emails that do require immediate attention or actions to be taken by the affiliates that have a due date. Your emails are not the only emails an Affiliate receives.
Clear email subjects allow quicker, more efficient and better processing by the affiliate and reduce the chances that critical emails are overlooked.
Affiliate Marketing Rule No.1: Affiliates and merchants are business partners, treat them as such.